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Last Updated on May 04, 2012

    We do not claim or acknowledge that any of the following are true.  These flight school war stories are sent by those who attended flight school.   They do make for good entertainment if nothing else.  Also, we have received some verification of some of the information below.  (Yes, there was a Army Flight Training Post at Fort Wolters, Texas.)


Jay Brown -

1) Ft. Wolters, TX in late 1970, I had already soloed and was being trained by my IP, Mr. Harry Etzweiler, in the fine art of confined area operations.

We had departed Wolters Main Heliport enroute to one of the many stagefields to the west and worked diligently on mastering smaller and smaller areas, all in the name of preparing for operating a larger, more powerful helicopter in Vietnam. As I recall, Harry was a wonderful teacher, but a man of few words, convinced that a scowl would suffice as a response to any idiocy I happened to utter. We worked confined areas for about an hour, then went to the stagefield for some traffic pattern work, hovering autorotations and refuel.

After refueling, Harry told me to take him to the ready shack at the center of the stagefield and drop him off. As he was gathering his equipment he told me he wanted me to go work on my confined areas. Then, just before he unplugged, he said, "You need to work on your hovering autos, too", unplugged his helmet and was gone. This created a quandry for this lowly WOC, as I knew solo emergency procedures were a definite no-no, but Harry had said it and I took it as gospel.

I rolled the throttle up to operating rpm, before takeoff check complete and called the tower to hover to lane 1, pad two, which was right in front of the tower. Once in position I called the tower and requested a hovering auto, which was approved. I did one, then two, then a third hovering auto, all of which I considered to be a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Satisfied with my performance I requested and received clearance for takeoff. As I turned cross wind I informed the tower that I would be working confined areas to the west, just in case I encountered difficulty and couldn't make it back. That way they'd know where to start looking for the smoking hole.

The tower called back and said, "Saber 10, are you SOLO?" I responded, "Saber 10, affirmative." I went to the confined areas and worked for about an hour, practicing a constant approach angle, laying out sticks and rocks for use as a reference to keep me from sticking my tail rotor into the trees, constant takeoff angle and generally enjoying the fine art of flying.

I returned to the stagefield as directed and parked in the refuel area. I was met by the flight commander and a contingent of several IPs who unceremoniously escorted me into the stagefield ready room where I saw my hero and idol, Harry Etzweiler seated at one of the long tables, head in hand. The flight commander asked me one question from close range: "Who authorized you to perform solo hovering autorotations?" I confidently pointed my finger at my IP and said, "He did." My last memory of that incident is Harry coming across the table to ensure I would never again touch the controls of anything more complex than the handle on a rotary mower. With much explanation, wailing, many demerits, and wearing of sackcloth and ashes, I managed to convince them I was worth retraining and finished flight school in June 71.

During 25 years of aviation service I was made glad on several occasions that Harry had done such a good job of making sure I could handle those annoying things that go wrong at the most inopportune time.


Jay Brown -

2) Ft. Rucker, AL, early 1971, formation flying in a gaggle of about eight hueys, getting ready for graduation and thinking about selecting an advanced aircraft for follow-on training.

My stick buddy and I were flying about third or second from last on a nice, tight approach into a very wide, open field in southern Alabama. The WOC flying the lead aircraft reported that the LZ was slopped and terraced and the flight would terminate the approach to a hover. Normally that would be no problem, and in later life it wasn't, but this was a tight flight of WOCs involved in a steeper and faster than necessary approach compounded by a last minute change of plans. All seemed to be ok, I brought my aircraft to a hover in a fashion that made up for its lack of style and finesse by being, technically, at a stable hover.

Suddenly there was a loud boom to our right rear. I did a pedal turn in that direction and witnessed my first crashed huey, laying on it's side, engine screaming and smoke and dust filling the air. I keyed the mike and broadcast, "Chalk eight has crashed." My stick buddy jumped out while we were still hovering at about 5 feet and ran back to render assistance, leaving his door flapping in the breeze. The flight IP called, "Everyone clear the LZ now and return to TAC Runkle. Flat Iron is inbound." I dutifully pulled pitch to clear the area for dustoff and called to another aircraft, "My left door is open. I'm going to land and close it and need you to fly cover for me in case I screw this up." I landed, managed to reach across very large cockpit and secure the door and continue to our destination. There I answered all the questions about why I thought I was good enough to fly a huey solo, where was my stick buddy, and wasn't I the guy at Ft. Wolters who had done solo hovering autos (stuff always comes back to haunt you).

The guys in the crashed bird were medevac'd out, my stick buddy was left in the LZ to be picked up near dusk when he didn't show up anywhere else, and we all went on to put in our requests for advanced training. I had wanted to fly OH-6s and was ready to make the request but I had to talk to the accident investigation board first. While I was taking care of that little detail one of the other guys in the flight took the last Cayuse slot available. My second option had been dustoff, but as luck would have it that option was gone as well. I ended up flying slicks in RVN, quite probably the most rewarding experience of my entire career. Jay Brown, 71-15/17



I had two years of prior service and had been stationed at Sembach Air Base in Germany, where the Army had more aircraft than did the Air Force.  I was a Spec 5 and had been in charge of flight records for the Aviation Section of the 32d Artillery Brigade (later 32d Air Defense Command).  The Brigade HQ was in nearby Kaiserslautern, and there was a great camaraderie between the officers and men of the Aviation Section and we often carpooled from the Vogelweh housing area to Sembach.  Because all of our officers were pilots, it was a natural for me to get some "bootleg stick time" flying with our aviators.  I had flown countless times in the "Beaver", OH-6A , "Bird Dog", O-1, the "Choctaw" CH-34 and once in the OH-13.  I even had a chance to fly a CH-37 "Mojave" for a few minutes.  I had "the bug" and I put in for fixed wing flight training. 

One of the requirements was an orientation flight. Having been a veteran of a number of flights all over Germany, I was ready. CW2 Gene Geyer took me up in the "Bird Dog" and I, of course, had the back seat.   An hour or so prior to take off I had a bratwurst from the "Ptomaine Wagon", the flight line catering van.  We went out over the Rhine Valley and did some stalls and spins and returned back to Sembach to do some touch and go's.  I had started feeling a little queasy and with each air mile and air current, I became a little worse.  Knowing that if I became sick on this ride I would not qualify for the program, I concentrated on the time it would take us to get on the ground, out of the plane and to a latrine before I became "Mouth Vesuvius." 

Mr. Geyer asked how I was doing and then said he was going to make one more touch and go.  I knew I could make it.  I had the time figured down to the proverbial gnat's hindquarters.  We landed, took off and came back in; but he decided he had to make one more round.  I made it to about the midfield point on downwind and it was all over.  I wanted flight school badly and I wasn't going to allow a bout of airsickness to thwart my efforts, so I pulled open the front of my fatigue shirt and let loose!  The sight, smell and feel of this action just exacerbated the problem.  Mr. Geyer asked if I was feeling OK and I replied that I was fine.  We landed, taxied up and I was out of there.  I told him I had too much coffee and had to go in a bad way.  I retired to the latrine where I emptied out my T-shirt and washed everything up.  I kept a change of clothes there so I quickly changed, thinking no one was the wiser.  Several weeks later after my acceptance to the rotary wing class of 67-13, I was saying my good-byes and First Lieutenant Don Davenport said "Whatever you do Tognazzini, don't puke on your first ride!"   Turns out they had all guessed.

Because of the rapport I had with the officers there, I was able to get some pointers on what to do when I arrived at Wolters.  I was told not to check in early because I would be subject to just that much more harassment. I checked into the Holiday Inn and went through everything with a "fine toothed comb." I was told how to prepare my uniform (I used an electric shaver to shave my "greens.")  I was warned about the belt buckle and I spent a couple of hours and liberal amounts of Brasso taking it apart, shining it inside and out. The tip of the brand new belt was similarly attended to.  I had till Midnight to check in so I drove over to the area, which I had reconnoitered earlier in the day.   I knew where to park, I had done everything right.  I was told to wear all ribbons and insignia that were recorded in my personnel record so that I would be "in uniform", and it was done.  To preclude any wrinkles to my dress greens, I hung the "blouse" in a garment bag for the trip over to the base.  To avoid any scratches to my brass buckle, I carefully placed it over the passenger seat of my Chevy II SS.  My meticulously spit-shined low quarters were on the passenger seat so that not a scratch, not a blemish, would mar the shine.  I knew I was in for some serious vexation from "Senior Candidates", but they could not fault me on my appearance.  

Upon arrival, I carefully put on my shoes, donned the blouse with all the eagles "flying straight", and used my outside rearview mirror to ensure that my cap was precisely at the correct angle.  I reported in and of course the fun began. There was no right or wrong way when it came to the display of ribbons and insignia.  If you had them and did not display them you were "out of uniform."  If you wore them you were out of uniform because of your status as a "worm."  My uniform was examined in a manner that my buttons and brass insignia became fogged up with each pass.  I knew not to "beady eye" my tormentor and stood rooted to the street waiting for it all to end.   Except for the ribbons and insignia, they could not find a single thing wrong with my uniform.  My countenance belied the smirk I felt inside, until this eighteen year old "Senior Candidate" asked me to undo my blouse so that he could see my belt buckle.  That is when I remembered, too late, that it was still draped over the passenger seat of my POV, the aforementioned Chevy II SS.  It goes without saying that Hell hath no fury like that experienced by a WOC in that situation. 

I did make it through with my class, served with the 282d "Black Cats" at Da Nang (Marble Mountain) and returned to Wolters as a Tac Officer with 1st WOC, did a brief stint in operations and training, Chinook transition, HIFC, (the instrument course) and on to Germany, some great IFR flying and instructing and a commission.  I returned to civilian life in 72 and except for the fact that every time I put my belt on, my mind goes back for a fleeting moment to a cold November night in 1966, at a little place outside of Mineral Wells Texas, that was somehow the center of the universe for some of the greatest guys I ever knew, when I symbolically ran out of airspeed, altitude and experience all at the same time.

By the Way:
I am the "Candidate Gross" on the right side of the photo with Gary "Twitch" Thewlis. 

Victor D. Tognazzini
WORWAC  Class 67-13

Flight School War Stories - Page 1

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Last updated May 04, 2012